Coronado: A Popular Beach Town for Expats in Panama

Back in the 1940s, Coronado was just a few sleepy ranches alongside an unspoiled stretch of blue Pacific and black-and-white speckled beaches. However, Coronado is now a highly popular beach town on the Pacific coast of Panama. Located an hour from Panama City, it is on the ‘Arco Seco’ (‘dry arch’) stretch of coastline, so named because of the remarkably low rainfall it receives each year.

For years Coronado has been a getaway for Panamanians in need of a sun-soaked, beach break but recently it has flourished thanks to a thriving expat community that is growing here all the time.

Coronado is one of the more developed beach resorts along the Pacific coast. It caters for most First World needs and those living here can still enjoy many—if not all—the conveniences of life back home…except at a reduced price.

Often regarded as the epicentre of beach life in Panama, property here is affordable and infrastructure is already in place.

There is a Country Club, several full-scale supermarkets, a golf course, a mall, and numerous leisure amenities that you can enjoy, and all for a low cost.

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Retire in Coronado, Panama

Retire in Coronado, Panama

The reasons for retiring in Coronado are easy to find. Firstly, it is a tried-and-tested spot…many IL readers have moved there. Coronado is perfectly suited to retirees.

It has the Pacific Ocean on its doorstep, clean white beaches, malls, extensive 24-hour supermarkets selling all of what you love back home…golfing, a growing expat community, and business ventures if you want an active retirement in Coronado.

Also, you may benefit from the superb pensionado visa which entitles you to discounts of up to 50% at movies, theaters, and other public events, and 10% off medical subscriptions.

The climate is ideal. Temperatures are usually around 85 F and rainfall is consistently low. Expat and local residents here will tell you: it’s striking just how much the community has developed over the past five years.

It’s getting more international and every new transplant brings ideas for fun activities or new businesses to serve residents’ needs. There are opportunities for community service and social outings, and activities ranging from tennis to Mahjong to golf (the golf club here features a championship course designed by Tom Fazio).

Lifestyle in Coronado, Panama

Lifestyle in Coronado, Panama

Lifestyle in Coronado is typically laidback. It is, after all, a resort. Even the Panamanian elite enjoy vacationing here.

The clement weather and access to all the amenities you desire makes life here relaxed and comfortable.

No more executive stress or driving around like crazy. In this safe, plush beach community you can spend your days bathing in crystalline waters and soaking up the sun all you like.

The locals are friendly and many speak English. The settled expats will make you feel right at home.

And if you still have an entrepreneurial drive then this is the ideal place to open a bar or restaurant to service your fellow residents. Coronado has always been a popular beach destination, but the San Fernando Clinic has really sealed the deal.

The 24-hour clinic opened its doors in October of 2008, and is equipped to offer a wide range of services. It boasts modern medical equipment.

A full-time dentist and ophthalmologist also work out of the clinic, which has English-speaking doctors on staff.

Real Estate in Coronado, Panama

Real Estate in Coronado, Panama

Much of Coronado lies within a large gated area dominated by the Coronado Es Vida development. New property purchases here (and some resales) come with a membership to the Coronado Golf Country Club.

An activation fee plus $200 per month dues get you unlimited greens fees, access to the beach club, and all activities, as well as access to the hotel restaurants and bars, tennis courts, gym, and spa.

If you pay your bill on time (within 30 days) you are also entitled to a 20% discount on all food, retail, and beach rentals.

Coronado offers everything from luxury condos to cozy resale homes to lots of every shape and size, but to save as much as possible, look to neighboring Gorgona. You won’t find a lot of houses on the water, but many of the properties available here are just a five-minute walk to the beach, where gleaming white sands with swirls of glittering black await.

Here are some property samples for real estate in Coronado:

  • A 30-minute drive from Coronado town center, the Las Lajas de Coronado development offers some of today’s best beach bargains. Here, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in just over 1,300 square feet of living space sits on a lot of about 2,200 square feet. The gated community has a social area and pool. Price: $132,000.
  • A new, two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo in Gorgona is in a private complex with a gazebo, barbecue area, social area, swimming pool, and a doorman. The unit is about 850 square feet and features an open kitchen and a balcony and comes furnished. Price: $135,000.

Cost of Living in Coronado, Panama

Cost of Living in Coronado, Panama

Expats report that the cost of living is low in Coronado. Thanks to the discounts of the pensionado visa, the cost of living here is more affordable.

You can avail of reductions of 25% in restaurants and public events and movies are half price. Eating out is cheap, a decent meal for two in a restaurant will likely just set you back $15.

Many residents hire maids who do a thorough house cleaning. They may charge as little as $15 for the whole service. And a landscape gardener is just $20. Most of the expats you’ll speak to (whether single or living with a partner) budget around $2,500 a month. That’s for nearly all household expenses and entertainment…including rent, utilities, high-speed internet, and excellent cell phone service.

Here’s a sample monthly budget for a couple living in Coronado:

 Expense U.S. $
Rent (two-bedroom apartment or house)$1,100 to $1,800
Electricity (depending on air conditioning use)$60 to $120
Water (often bundled with trash pickup)$12 to $20
Gas for cooking, hot water heaters, dryer, etc.$0 to $10
Supermarket (local and imported food and household items)$350 to $450
Entertainment for two (dinner four times a month)$120 to $250
Phone (cell phone, mostly local use)$10 to $40
Internet (high-speed)$20 to $35
Cable or satellite television$35 to $50
Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on a compact car)$50 to $200
Monthly total:$1,757 to $2,975

Coronado: A Popular Beach Town for Expats in Panama

by Erica Mills

Coronado, Panama, is a relaxed community. Only an hour from Panama City, this coastal town—now popular with expats—was once a vacation getaway for Panamanians, who came from miles around to sun themselves on the black-and-white-sanded beach and swim in the Pacific Ocean.

But as easygoing as this growing town is, there’s more to do here than you might initially expect. American Ellen Cook, who has lived here for three years with her husband, John, says that they are never at a loss for something to do.

“I can’t really pin it down but we’re always very busy,” she says of her days here. “It’s really weird because you just seem to have no time.”

A brief look at Ellen’s typical week, however, sheds a lot of light on where her time goes. To start with, she and her husband can indulge their hobbies and interests like never before. Where before, they were working up to 16 hours a day, their days are now wide open for recreation.

That time is not being spent watching TV—Ellen and John haven’t bothered to get cable TV installed… and they don’t miss it. On the rare occasion they want the news, they look at CNN or Fox online; if they occasionally want to watch a certain show, John simply downloads it.

Instead the couple takes advantage of the extra space in their three-bedroom house—bought for $135,000—to pursue hobbies. Ellen has turned one of the unused bedrooms into an art room; John keeps a ham-radio station upstairs, too.

“My husband is a ham-radio enthusiast,” Ellen explains. “He also plays guitar. And he gives guitar lessons.”

Ellen grows herbs and spinach in her garden and holds a weekly meditation group for other like-minded people.

Outside the home, there is even more to do. Coronado has always been one of the most well-developed resort towns in Panama, but in the last few years, Ellen says, she has seen it flourish beyond expectation.

“It’s grown so much it’s ridiculous,” she says. “There used to be just one supermarket and now there are three 24-hour supermarkets.

“One is a general store, as well. There are three malls going up and we have another department store that’s very popular, a Novey (a popular Panamanian home improvement chain). And there are five huge hardware/tile stores in about a 10-mile radius.”

No matter your income, Ellen says, you can afford to enjoy yourself in Coronado. Unlike many of the popular beach towns in the U.S., the cost of living in Coronado is very manageable.

“There are a lot of people here with a lot of money. And then there are people like us who come here because they don’t have a lot of money. But you’ll see both kinds.”

Currently, Ellen and John live on an income of just $1,100 a month. But Ellen insists they’re not eking out an existence. The couple pays for groceries, household help, water and power, gas for their car, and Internet within that budget. They even manage to get out to a restaurant at least once a week, taking advantage of Panama’s pensionado program—a program that mandates discounts to all qualified retirees. A good-quality meal sets them back about $25.

The growing Coronado community, made up of both expats and Panamanians, provides plenty of opportunity to socialize. Residents here will find themselves mingling with a wide blend of nationalities, including Canadian, British, American and various South Americans.

“You can be as social here as you want to be,” Ellen says. “Or not.”

Not content to just enjoy the area, John and Ellen are happy to give back to the community that warmly welcomed them.

“We both volunteer,” Ellen says. “My husband keeps a mailing list for the Coronado Social Association, which has about 500 members. It’s a big, big organization. They do charity work as well as things like picnics, Christmas parties and coffee mornings. And then when they have an event, we always volunteer to help: to tend bar or check people in, get their money, that sort of thing.”

The canines of Coronado also benefit from Ellen and John’s attention, with Ellen working with an organization that places homeless street dogs.

“And we also help with spay and neuter clinics for the Spay the Strays (low-income-family spay/neuter clinics). My husband is a vet tech and I assist cleaning tables.”

Though Ellen will tell you she can’t pin down where her days go, to an outsider it’s incredibly clear.

“There’s not enough hours in a day,” she says cheerfully—and speaking to her you realize she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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